Here is our itinerary which I researched and planned myself and then used McKenzie 4x4 in Maun to make all the bookings for me. This saved me multiple bank transfer fees and Brenda McKenzie was very efficient. She sent me all the documents by courier to UK, as you need the originals with you for every location. She charged me around £80 for her service which I thought was a bargain. We exchanged many emails and she is a mine of information.
Johannesberg Rutland House B&B 1 night
Lephalale area Ama Amanzi Game Lodge 1 night
Khama Rhino Sanctuary 1 night chalet self catering
Kubu Island 1 night camping
CKGR Sunday Pan and Deception Valley 2 nights camping
Maun Thamalakane River Lodge 1 night Fish Eagle room
Moremi Third Bridge 3 nights camping
Moremi Xakanaxa 3 nights camping
Maun again Thamalakane River Lodge 1 night Fish Eagle room - to restock and refuel
Moremi North Gate Khwai 3 nights camping
Chobe NP Savute 2 nights camping
Kasane 3 nights Serendipity cottage self catering
Chobe NP Ihaha 3 nights camping
Planet Baobab 2 nights - 1st in a baobab hut - 2nd we rode quad bikes out to sleep on the pan and to see the meerkats
Francistown 1 night Woodlands stopover chalet self catering
Kwa Tuli - Tuli Block 2 nights safari tent
Johannesberg Rutland house B&B 1 night
We hired a camping equipped 4x4 Land Rover Defender from Explorer Safari’s in Johannesburg. We had a change of vehicle half way through the holiday as our booked vehicle, an AHA camper with twin beds and portable loo, had to be given to some people who had wrecked one of the Explorer Safari’s a couple of days before our arrival. By the time we arrived we had to accept the only 4x4 camper they had, which was not perfect for our age!, but Mike and his team at Explorer Safari’s made sure we got the AHA as soon as it became available, so we were happy with that.
We flew with Air France from Bristol to Paris and onto Johannesburg overnight which is a very convenient flight for us living in the far South West of UK and we arrived at 9.50am in Johannesburg picked up the camper and went straight to the B&B.
We decided not to camp every night so that we could get our laundry done, have a good shower and eat out. Going back to Maun to restock etc worked well although the road from Maun to South Gate is a horror and we had to do it three times because of this decision.
We made all our bookings one year ahead after reading here and on other forums that this was vital to do so to get the campsites etc you wanted. We found in practice that at almost every campsite people were just turning up and getting a space. Not necessarily a proper camping pitch with a number! but rather a spot on the edge of the numbered pitches, by the ablutions, in the bushes (in the case of Savute!) or double booking as at Third Bridge. The only place this didn’t happen was Ihaha in Chobe NP. We noticed that most of those arriving without bookings owned their own vehicles. For those of us coming from so far away, turning up ‘on spec’ is usually not an option, but if you have the nerve you will probably be found somewhere to set up camp.
All the ablution blocks were clean and there was hot water at them all except one day at Third Bridge. We were very impressed. Toilet paper was provided at all and soap at some. All the camp managers were very friendly and helpful.
There is wood available at Khwai, Savuti and Ihaha.
There is a small tuck shop at Savuti and most entrance offices have maps and gift items for sale. At Khwai there is a shop over the bridge in the village. Its all very friendly and we felt very welcome everywhere.
We took enough bottled water for 10 ltr per day plus we had 60 ltr in the water tank on the Defender. In Central Kalahari we carried more. We kept the Defender topped up with fuel throughout and also carried two jerry cans. We ran it to empty on the return drive to Johannesburg so we had no worries about fuel. Never leave yourself short of water or fuel, its not safe as you never know when or where you might break down, and you could be waiting for several days for help to arrive. We probably ‘gave’ Explorer Safari’s 30 ltr or so at the end but peace of mind was worth it.
SOME OF THE THINGS WE WERE GLAD WE TOOK WITH US
LED head torches. Davecorina on Trip Advisor recommended LED LENSER and we bought two from amazon just before we left. We were so glad we did as they were fantastic. We took plenty of batteries with us as there was not always opportunity to recharge the ones that came with the torches. They are very bright but adjustable and when its very dark you need something that helps you spot the hyena etc in plenty of time.
Lots of plastic bags for rubbish, small ones for food and large ones to put the bedding in each day. This kept everything as sand free as was possible.
Draper Drybags. We left our suitcases with Delia at the B&B in Johannesburg and transferred everything into the Defender. We packed our cloths in the dry bags before we left. We don’t pack ‘posh” so they were perfect. We also used some dry bags for our shower stuff. We could take everything, including our clean clothes, in the bag to the shower so that we didn’t run the risk of dropping it on the floor. There are seldom hooks etc in the ablution blocks.
We purchased our own Garmin GPS and Tracks4Africa maps which we downloaded from their website. We then input our route and downloaded it onto the Garmin. This gave us plenty of time to practice using the Garmin. We could also see exactly where we were going to drive and it certainly helped when we got to Botswana. Explorer Safari’s also provided one free of charge if you don’t want the extra expense but we enjoy the planning.
When you are working with Tracks4Africa you can switch to Google Earth from the area you are looking at. Its a great insight into the towns, roads and places you are going. They drove into Moremi last year so you can see the entrance to some of the camp sites. I used it to look a the shops in Palapaye to see if they had a mobile phone shop, locate the B&B in Johannesburg and many other places we were going.
We bought the Bradt guide to Botswana, a Tracks4Africa paper map and also the Veronica Roodt Shell maps including Moremi and Chobe. We also bought her book Shell Tourist Travel and Field Guide of Botswana which gives excellent information on the roads, places to stay and lots of good advice.
We took South African Rand with us which we were able to use at the border crossing into Botswana with no problem. We took cash from home and changed it at a bank in Palapaye and again in Maun and got a very good rate.
We hired a Satellite phone from Explorer and would do so again if we go to area’s like Central Kalahari. In Moremi there were lots of people around and some mobile reception. We have a triband unlocked phone from UK which we always take abroad and it picks up the local network as soon as we land, it means the kids can text us on our own number. We also bought a Botswana Sim Card for a spare mobile we took with us. We used the Satellite phone once and the Botswana Sim lots of times, it cost just a few Pula for the Sim at the Orange shop in Palapaye.
We took thermals as we knew it was going to be cold some nights and especially sleeping out on the Makgadikgadi Pans. Apart from the pans the coldest place was Johannesburg!
Food wise we took all our favourite sauces etc in travel size packs. You can never get Heinz Salad cream to taste the same if you buy it abroad! Boil in the bag rice was fantastic as we made lots of curry dishes (took packets of our favourite ones with us) . We tried to do one pan cooking whenever we could, as we prefer to eat in the evening although it’s more difficult cooking in the dark with animals around.
We took our own towels as we guessed those with the camper would be small, and they were.
Universal sink plug.
Lots of wet wipes, soap, shampoo, moisturiser and foot balm. You get very dry skin and your feet do not know whats hit them.
Doggy poo bags for when we needed a bush toilet. Never leave any paper etc behind.
Washing line and pegs, cold water clothes washing liquid in small travel size tubes.
We bought a multiple in car charger for the phones, camera batteries etc. It has 3 ports and we could charge several things at once up to 3 watts. It was invaluable as we take lots of photographs and video.
We took a catapult/sling shot as advised by regulars on the forums and it worked a treat with the baboons. We just had to show it to them and they ran off.
Hubby got a Leatherman for Christmas and it was used lots of times and we will definitely take it everywhere we go from now on.
WHAT WE BOUGHT IN SOUTH AFRICA AND BOTSWANA
We went to Woolworths in Johannesburg to buy all our ‘basics’. They are excellent, rather like Waitrose in UK. The wine boxes were very reasonable and the best way to carry wine. Before we left I went onto their website and made myself a shopping list. They will deliver if you have an address you can use in SA so its all waiting when you arrive. Snoek pate is to be recommended. We bought chicken and fish as we had been warned not to take red meat across the border into Botswana. In Botswana Choppies, Pick and Pay and the Spar supermarkets are OK depending on the size of the town.
One we crossed into Botswana we bought steak, veggies and fresh milk. The beef in Botswana is outstanding and a fraction of the price we pay in UK. We didn’t carry any fruit with us the whole trip because we didn’t want to tempt elephants looking for oranges etc. As we had elephants standing right next to our camper on several occasions we were glad we didn’t have that orange!
We bought a cheap bucket and washing up bowl. The bucket was invaluable for carrying around all our dish washing bits and pieces and carrying water from the camp stand pipes. The washing up bowl we used to wash our feet every night on the steps of the camper before we went to bed. A bed full of sand was not going to happen.
WOULD WE GO AGAIN?
The answer is an absolute YES!! We did find the whole trip and big challenge, doing this for the first time when you are 62 and 64 is probably leaving it a bit late. Previously we had only self driven in Namibia (in Africa that is) which was a doddle compared to Botswana.
It was hard work setting up and putting down camp, cooking all your own food, driving through very deep sand and keeping vigilant in the camps for animals.
Elephants are so quiet and you turn around to find one right behind you, tippy toes. The Hyena at Third Bridge was only 5 feet away from me when I turned around feeling I was being watched. Unfortunately some people feed the wild animals and it causes problems for them as they then look for food from everyone.
There was an elephant at Xakanaxa running around breaking things and pulling bags out of 4x4’s when we arrived there. People were telling the rangers it should be shot! It wasn’t while we were there, but it was quite upsetting. That beautiful animal had been fed by stupid people and was now suffering the consequences.
To be camping out in the open, with millions of stars above you and lions roaring in the night is something we would recommend to everyone, and we can’t wait to do it again. Next time we camp we are going to spend at least a week in the Central Kalahari which was our favourite place of all those wonderful places. Before we do that we are going to try Sanparks accommodation in Kruger NP and Kgalagadi TP.
If anyone has questions please ask. I will be making a Blurb book of the trip which will include lots of photographs and will post a free link to it here. After this is posted I will put some links to YouTube videos I have started making which might be of interest. Charlie